Travel Tips for Thailand Etiquette

Although Thai people are very forgiving to foreigners and will probably not say anything, knowing a little about Thailand etiquette before you go shows both respect and an interest in the local culture.

Use these tips to be a better traveler and to avoid offending someone on accident!

Spit Before and After You Pee Spit Before and After You Pee

Many Thais hold the animist belief that spirits live in the ground. To show respect, you should spit before and after peeing outdoors to avoid accidentally urinating on a spirit.

* * * ½   9 votes
Thailand Spirit Houses Thailand Spirit Houses

Those tiny house shrines are to appease the spirits who lived in the ground where a house was built. Food, drinks, and offerings are given to avoid problems. A spirit house shouldn’t be in the shadow of a home.

* * *     5 votes
Don’t Cut Off Your Temple Bracelets Don’t Cut Off Your Temple Bracelets

Don’t cut off those orange bracelets you get for free in temples — doing so is considered bad for spiritual health. Instead, you can untie them after a few days or let them fall off on their own.

* * *     2 votes
Don’t Throw Objects Don’t Throw Objects

Throwing an object to someone rather than handing it to them can be considered rude, particularly if the object is of any value. Take the few steps to hand someone an item, and do so with your right hand; left hand touching the right forearm.

* * * * ½ 10 votes
Don’t Wai Servers Don’t Wai Servers

Although putting your hands together prayer-like (the wai) is common in Thailand, you should not offer a wai to servers, waiters, homeless people, or others “below” you. Doing so actually causes them to “lose face.”

* * * * ½ 17 votes
Don’t Point at People Don’t Point at People

Pointing is considered especially rude in Thailand. Never point at people; instead, raise your chin in someone’s direction. Control your fingers during conversation when trying to make a point. It is OK to point at animals and inanimate objects.

* * * * ½ 14 votes
Giving and Receiving Gifts Giving and Receiving Gifts

It is polite to put a gift that someone gives you aside to open later, rather than tearing into it immediately in front of them. Expect Thais to do the same when you give them gifts. Wrapping and presentation are important for gifts.

* * * * ½ 7 votes
Don’t Step on Thresholds Don’t Step on Thresholds

Stepping on a door threshold is considered bad form in Thailand because a spirit resides inside. Remove your shoes before stepping over the wooden threshold in temples and homes.

* * * * ½ 8 votes
Don’t Use Your Left Hand Don’t Use Your Left Hand

The left hand is used for toilet functions. Don’t use your left hand to hand someone money or items – use both hands or just your right hand instead. Always accept items with both hands to show respect.

* * * * ½ 15 votes
Monks Don’t Eat After Noon Monks Don’t Eat After Noon

Many monks take a vow not to eat anything after 12:00 noon. To show respect and to avoid unnecessary temptation, avoid eating or snacking around them in the afternoon.

* * * ½   8 votes
Dress Conservatively in Temples Dress Conservatively in Temples

When visiting temples, cover your shoulders and knees. Although many wats in tourist areas are more laxed, show respect by not wearing swim shorts or sleeveless shirts.

* * * * ½ 9 votes
Women Should Not Touch Monks Women Should Not Touch Monks

Women should never touch a monk – even on accident, or hand a monk something. You must first pass something to a man or put it down. These same rules even apply to the monk’s mother!

* * * * ½ 12 votes
Respect Buddha Statues Respect Buddha Statues

You should not turn your back to Buddha statues in temples or shrines; instead, back away. Always remove your shoes before entering the prayer hall of a temple (wat).

* * * * ½ 7 votes
Remove Your Shoes Remove Your Shoes

Unless told not to do so by your host, always remove your shoes before going into a Thai home. Some shops, restaurants, and businesses will expect you to do so as well. Just look for shoes at the front entrance and you’ll know.

* * * * ½ 9 votes
Don’t Knock the King! Don’t Knock the King! (Click to read more)

The Thai people dearly love their king – the oldest monarch in the world. Insulting the King or even his picture means prison time, even for tourists…

* * * * ½ 16 votes
Slow Down a Little Slow Down a Little

Don’t expect the same service in restaurants that we enjoy in the West. Things move a little slower in Thailand – including the servers. How motivated would you be for no tips and pitiful pay? Be patient!

* * * *   5 votes
How to Say Hello How to Say Hello (Click to read more)

Say hello in Thailand by offering a “wai” with your hands and saying “sawas dee khrap” (men) or “sawas dee kaa” (women)…

* * * * ½ 20 votes
Do Not Point Your Feet Do Not Point Your Feet

The feet are considered the lowest and dirtiest part of the body in Buddhist culture. Never point the bottom of your feet at anyone while sitting. Do not touch people with your feet or raise them higher than a person’s head.

* * * ½   8 votes
The Head is Sacred! The Head is Sacred!

The head is considered the highest and holiest part of the body. Never touch people on the head – even children – and always avoid lifting your foot higher than someone’s head.

* * * * ½ 8 votes
Buddhists are Conservative in General Buddhists are Conservative in General (Click to read more)

Aside from the modern, Western influences found in big cities, Buddhists are generally very conservative in nature…

* * * ½   13 votes

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